8/16/2017: Updated tutorial. Today we updated the FA tutorial in PDF.
8/8/2017: New Messenger tool. Today we unveiled a new tool, Restricted Messenger delivery. In your regular account, or in any sub-account you set up, you can designate an email address that a subscriber must have in order to subscribe to messages from that account.
8/4/2017: Updated iOS app available. The update to the iOS Messenger app is now available in the iTunes App store.
7/29/2017: New features. Clients now may create multiple Business Partner lists, see their password as they type, and create a report showing their emergency messages from the past year.
7/28/2017: Additional region collapse. If you have access to more than one FlashAlert region, those cities will now be collapsed to conserve space on the posting forms. Click to reveal the full list and make your choices.
7/27/2017: Login improvement. Two new features at login. The system will not accept logins from your IP address after five mistakes to deter hackers. But to reduce actual mistakes, you now may see the password you are typing.
6/19/2017: Website updated. The old one evolved over 15 years, so we started from scratch in Word Press. Easier navigation. And faster: clients can go to FlashAlert.net, and on the Post Your News tab, click on Log In. Site now scales for mobile devices. Messenger iOS app update coming soon!
2/14/2017: Default delete time for schools now 5 pm. At the request of the TV stations, we have pulled down the 7 pm default delete time for all-day messages to 5 pm. Late-start messages still have an 11 am default delete. But now, if you change from a late start to closed for example, the system will automatically change your delete time from 11 am to 5 pm. Non-schools will retain their default delete time of three hours after the posting time.
11/16/16: Android app updated. We rolled out an update to the FlashAlert Messenger app for Android to fix an issue created by an Android OS update earlier this year. We also found a setting that was off that should help iOS users link the app to their web account.
6/24/16: Post news releases, too, to Facebook. You now can have your news releases (like you can with emergency messages) automatically post to your Facebook and/or Twitter pages. To access this feature, log in to your FlashAlert account with your Facebook credentials on the login page, www.falogin.net
6/18/16: URLs for individual news releases. You now can send a link to a specific news release. The format is flashalert.net/id/xxxxx/yyyyy (with the xxxxx being your org’s shortcut name and yyyyy being the number on the top of the release when you look at it in your archive).
4/5/16: Apple Watch. You can receive notifications on your Apple Watch. On your iPhone, open the Watch app and in the Notifications section, scroll down to FlashAlert and turn it on.
2/25/16: Add your logo. You now can have your org logo appear on your custom page in FlashAlert, and on your emails to the media. On your account management page is a new upload field for your logo. Here’s what it (a badge) looks like on Portland Police’s page: flashalert.net/id/portlandpolice
1/22/16: Android Messenger app. If your people get a message that they are not connected to the Internet, they should turn off wifi and use the app on cellular service. Then turn wifi back on, and they should be able to work off either network. The problem seems to be a conflict between the app and an Android operating system upgrade. We are working on an update to the app, but it requires a rebuild from the ground up.
1/3/16: Message preview. The emergency posting page now has a preview field so you can see exactly how your message will appear to the media, in their websites and on their crawls.
6/20/15: Faster servers. My ISP shifted the system to new, faster servers over the weekend. Any such move alwsays pops up some gremlins, but we think we’ve got that under control.
9/2/14: Phasing out of text messages. While emails to the public will continue, we are working to phase out text messages, in favor of push notifications through the FlashAlert Messenger app for iOS and Android. Text messages are a major problem, subject to delay or deletion by the cell companies, as well as some companies cutting off messages at 160 characters. If someone simply must get a text message, they can enter their address manually (i.e. email@example.com)
8/20/14: Better info page for news media. We revised the page that the news media monitor so that they can see emergency postings on the news release archive page. Everything they need in one place.
7/25/14: Messenger enhanced. We completed upgrading FlashAlert Messenger so that you now can create sub-organizations, and the public can sign up for news from any of the three tiers (such as a school district, a school, and groups within the school). For more information, www.flashalertnewswire.net/messenger.html
4/17/14: Enhancement lets you set your own page URL. You now can simplify your FlashAlert news page URL. So you have your choice of the default, i.e., flashalert.net/news.html?id=37 Or you can set: flashalert.net/id/mhcc
It could be the same one you use for Twitter or Facebook. Just remember that each name/abbreviation can be used by only one org. You’ll find the field to enter it just below “Organization Name” on your account management page.
4/11/14: Better handling of special characters. Josh made some changes to the character encoding today, which should help with symbols and Spanish characters.
3/20/14: Tweaks and notations. Josh knocked off a number of tweaks today, including a new notation (an asterisk) on org names that indicate if the public can subscribe to their news.
3/15/14: iOS 7 Editor app functioning. Apple’s updating of the iOS software has fixed the problem that was crashing the FlashAlert Editor app when you changed cities (see 11-2-13 entry below). Just remember that there are a few things you can do on the website that you can’t do on the app, such as use both the menus and the text field at the same time.
3/6/14: News release tips from KOIN TV 6: The Portland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America met with five anchors, assignment editors and producers at the KOIN studios in Portland February 26 to hear what they had to say about submitting news. Here are audio files of that conversation, in two parts: Part 1 (16 min) and Part 2 (27 min).
3/4/14: Better control of postings to Facebook/Twitter: When posting an emergency message, you now can choose whether or not the postings is sent on to Facebook and/or Twitter (if you have linked your FlashAlert account to your FB or T accounts). The idea is that you may want to send something more detailed to your Messenger subscribers, then something shorter to FB/T and the media.
If you posted a message and had it also go to FB or T, deleting your message will delete it from FB and/or T. If your message reaches its scheduled delete time, the FB/T posting(s) will remain.
2/7/14: Record usage: With snow from Tacoma to Roseburg, FlashAlert handled 450 messages today. Push notifications, messages sent to the FlashAlert Messenger public app, reach 212,000 for February!
Write snappy headlines. Portland writing coach Ann Wylie has an excellent monthly newsletter, and this one focuses on writing snappy subject lines or headlines. Well worth a read: http://freewritingtips.wyliecomm.com/2014/02
1/10/14: News release “Photo” notation and “Send Later.” When you attach a photo to a news release, (Photo) now automatically appears at the end of the headline. The media is hungry for images so this helps them quickly find releases with a graphic element.
And you now can set a news release for future dispatch. Select a time (by half hour increments) and FlashAlert will distribute it then. Every day that you have a draft waiting, FlashAlert will send an email reminder to your two contacts, at 9 am and 3 pm.
1/3/14: Better text messages. Today, Josh worked over the text message generator and reduced the amount of superfluous information, such as a school district’s name showing twice. This should get more info to the public in the 160 characters we are limited to.
12/23/13: Use Quick Report menus AND the text field now. FlashAlert is making a change in the emergency/closure posting page that should help you assemble the best possible weather closure message to the media and, if you are using the Messenger service, your patrons.
Whereas previously it was use one or the other, you now can build your message using BOTH the Quick Report pre-formed messages AND/OR the custom message field below it. We are doing this specifically to encourage everyone to use the Quick Report menus and then, if necessary, enter supplemental information into the Custom Report field. But please don’t put the same info into the text field as you put in the menus, and no need to type “Due to inclement weather…” if it’s snowing!
11/15/13: Photos now in emails to media. Today we implemented another goodie: emails to the news media now are HTML. And if you include a photo(s) on a news release, the first image now goes as a thumbnail on the news release email, along with the usual links to the others (if any). Therefore, lead with your best shot. Josh soon will add an automation such that whenever there is a photo, (Photo) will automatically appear at the end of the headline, to save folks some keystrokes and standardize things…
And a comment that backs up what I’ve heard from many in the media about using the news release channel, and how the media will find your release faster than being tossed in with the 300 other emails they receive per day:
“Hey Craig- What is up with the new HTML look? I like it, including the thumbnail photo. Are all FlashAlerts now going to be formatted like that? I like that they all are from firstname.lastname@example.org – that makes it really easy for us to go back and quickly sort through emails based on the FROM tab and make sure we did not miss a good FlashAlert. Thank you!”
Nick Bradshaw | KATU TV Assignment Manager
11/2/13: iOS 7 Editor app bug. Today we discovered a glitch in how FlashAlert Editor interacts with Apple’s iOS7. If you try to change your city selection in the app, it crashes. In the meantime, you can log in to your org’s account on the web and set your default cities so that you don’t need to change them in the app.
10/11/13: New options for news releases. You now have the ability to send a draft of a news release to anyone you wish. The drop-down menu offers you the choice of sending to the primary contact, the secondary or any other email address. Coming soon: Future Send, where you choose a future delivery date/time. And don’t forget the draft option, where you can save a release to work on later or share with a colleague. To make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks, FlashAlert will send you a daily noontime reminder if you have a draft on hold.
System test: Thanks go out to all who posted test messages today. We piled on the biggest load we could and we found no significant slowdown. We did find a minor bug in the emailing script for sending messages to Messenger subscribers and will focus on fortifying that part of the system. Look for another system-wide test on Wed., Oct 30, from 10 to 10:30 am.
7/1/13: Suborgs in place. For those using FlashAlert Messenger’s public contact tool, you now can add suborganizations into your account. For example, a school district can add their schools, and even groups within their schools (two levels deep). At this time, you can distribute news releases to those who have registered for suborgs (emergency messages and sports to come). When you create a sub org, you give it as username/password so sub-org people can log in themselves (although only the contacts on the top level can trigger the info to go to the news media, too).
4/18/13: FlashAlert to handle all Seattle schools. Puget Sound ESD’s 200 school districts, private schools and colleges will use FlashAlert to distribute their news and weather closures starting July 1, joining the 65 schools and orgs already using FlashAlert in Seattle. Watch for workshops to be held around the Sound June 24-26.
3/22/13: Emergency messages can now go to Facebook. Like you have been able to with Twitter, you now can have your emergency messages automatically go to your Facebook page. The settings are in your account management page.
3/8/13: Save news releases as drafts. Start a news release at the office, finish it at home. Or at the cabin! Or start it, save it and have someone else review it before sending.
2/12/13: Page for news media gets improved alert. The page the media monitors for emergency messages auto-reloads every five minutes. If the reload found a new message, it would pop up an orange alert page. Really annoying! Now, the page tab flashes “New Information” and it chimes an alert.
1/17/13: Emergency messages faster than ever. FlashAlert has always sent emergency messages on the quarter hour, since the system started with weather closures only. I didn’t want the media getting 60 emails an hour on snow days, just four consolidated ones.
But that has meant emergency messages from ODOT, OSP, police and fire, etc., have had to live by the quarter-hour cycle, too. That changed this week with new programming that allows me to toggle emergency message dispatch from every 15 minutes on snow days to immediate dispatch the rest of the year. (News releases have always been on immediate dispatch.) On average, the media should get your emergency items seven minutes faster.
And for those of you using FlashAlert Messenger for direct distribution to the public, the new Messenger phone app now has a test button in each person’s account whereby they can have a test push notification sent to their app, just the same as with emails and text messages.
10/24/12: Messenger iOS (Apple) app now available. Today, Apple approved the app for the public to use to receive news via push notification. We have nearly 8,000 requests for the app! You will find it on iTunes here.